XL Bully ban: What dog owners need to know as new rules come into force

XL bully dogs must now be kept on a lead and muzzled in public under new restrictions that came into force on Sunday.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2023/09/23: A protester holds a placard which states 'Save our bullies' during the demonstration in Whitehall. Dog owners and supporters marched in Westminster in protest against the American Bully XL ban. The breed of dog is set to be banned in the UK following a series of attacks on people. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
XL Bully owners protest against the ban in central London. (Getty)

XL bully dogs must now be kept on a lead and muzzled in public under new restrictions that came into force on Sunday.

It comes amid fears among animal welfare groups that a looming ban on the breed will overwhelm vets and rescue centres. Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs has also become illegal, with owners being urged to apply for a certificate of exemption for current pets before the 31 January deadline.

From 1 February, owning an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate will be criminal offense. Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the government had met its pledge to take “quick and decisive action” following a series of attacks, with one man dying after being savaged by one of the dogs earlier this year.

But the RSPCA said the measures were “not the answer” and warned of a “huge risk” that rescue centres and vets will be unable to cope with a likely surge in demand. The RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea Dogs and Cats are among charities worried about the future of some of the dogs they are keeping. They have warned at least 246 of the breed could be euthanised if a new home is not found for them..

Here Yahoo News UK takes a look at the latest developments as XL Bully owners decide what to do next:

Big american bully dog
XL Bully dogs are being banned. (Getty)

New rules for XL bully dogs

Owners who wish to keep their dogs must apply to an exemption scheme or they can choose to have their dog euthanised and apply for compensation. The government has offered £200 to XL Bully owners to go towards the cost of euthanising their animals.

Owning an XL bully from 1 February 2024 will be illegal unless the animal is on an exempt list, called the Index of Exempted Dogs. Those who want to keep their dogs will have until the end of January to register them with the list and will then be forced to comply with strict requirements.

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This will include the requirement to muzzle them and keep them on a lead in public, but the dogs must also be microchipped and neutered. Owners seeking an exemption must also pay an application fee and hold active public liability insurance for their pets.

Dogs more than a year old on 31 January must be neutered by 30 June next year, while those under 12 months old must be neutered by 31 December 31 2024. Owners without a certificate of exemption will face a criminal record and an unlimited fine if they are found to be in possession of an XL bully as of 1 February, and their dog could be seized.

Campaigners are trying to launch a judicial review

A campaign group of XL bully owners has raised over £160,000 to fund a potential judicial review to overturn the ban. The Don't Ban Me - Licence Me organisation confirmed it had submitted a pre-action protocol to the UK government, instructed a lawyer and then hoped to submit an application to delay the new law by the next month.

The group’s head Sophie Coulthard told the Guardian: “We would like the government to consider licensing, because that is something that’s been presented to them, even through their own commissioned research, and has been ignored.

“There’s lots of really good models that are successful, where countries have just done away with breed specific legislation because what they found is they just kept banning more dog breeds and it clearly wasn’t working.

“It can involve mandatory training, making sure breeders are licensed properly, and stops people impulse buying dogs which you obviously see a lot.”

Watch: Hundreds of XL bully dogs to be destroyed at end of year when ban comes into force

What is an American XL bully dog?

The American bully is a relatively new dog breed from the US, with its first official breed registry, the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC), founded in 2004.

As it is not registered as a recognised breed by the UK Kennel Club, it is unclear how many of the dogs or breeders are currently in the country.

The UK government has estimated there are about 10,000 American XL bullies in the UK while the Blue Cross animal charity has suggested it is more like 15,000.

The breed comes in a variety of sizes, including pocket, standard and XL, the latter of which has become a cause of concern.

The animals are responsible for killing at least nine people, including three children, since 2001.